Of Wandering Amidst The Ruins Of St. Augustine, Goa

Age-old monuments hold a special charm for me and, most of the times, I cannot stop myself from walking around such places and taking in the atmosphere, thinking of what and who might have been there once upon a time, getting all goosebumpy at the thoughts. The same is the case for me with places that are in ruins, in tatters, barely holding on to the present, a reminder of what was, a bare shadow of a glorious past which is fast fading into that very same past. Decaying ruins are sad, but I find them hauntingly mesmerising all the same.

When we went on a completely unstructured trip to Goa last year, we didn’t have an agenda. We wanted to take things as they came to us, explore the place slowly and leisurely, as places are meant to be explored. We had decided we would soak in experiences that were new to us, as and when they came to us, which would teach us something and leave us with beautiful memories, rather than checking off places from a huge list. Wandering amidst the ruins of St. Augustine in Old Goa was one such experience that came to us on its own, without any plan on our part.

We were driving through Old Goa aimlessly in our cab, when I spotted the ruins. The sight of a huge, ancient tower in tatters, standing atop a hill, peeking out of the complex was enough for me to shriek and stop the cab from going any further. I was thoroughly intrigued, and couldn’t wait to get down and walk around the place. So, that is exactly what we did.

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The first view of the tower of St. Augustine

For the uninitiated, St. Augustine was one of the many fabulous churches that existed in Velha, the Old Goa of today. This church of Our Lady Of Grace is believed to have built as far back as 1602 on Monte Santo (called the Holy Hill), and was one of the largest buildings in Goa. Apparently, the construction of the church began 400 years before 1602, only to be completed in 1602. Not much is known about the person who built the church, but he is believed to have been an Italian. Sadly, in the 1800s, thanks to repressive Government policies and a series of deadly epidemics in Old Goa, the church started falling into a state of neglect. The abandonment of the church continued, and the church fell into ruins, one part of it collapsing after the other. Today, most parts of the church are fully gone, the rest standing as a relic from the past.

The tower that is visible from the outside is what once used to be the 46-metre high belfry of the church. In 1971, the huge bell that was housed in this belfry was moved to the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panjim, where it rings till date. This belfry, since then, stands bell-less.

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The ruins of St. Augustine

I am guessing no one worships in the church any more, and that the ruins are more of a tourist attraction now. The lawns seemed to be quite well-maintained when we visited, though, and were freshly mowed.

All along the pathway leading to (what remains of) the main church, there are plaques explaining what St. Augustine once was and how it fell into the state of disrepair that it is in now. I am sure it must have been a gorgeous place once upon a time!

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One of the plaques depicting the history of St. Augustine

Broken arches and empty altars come into view as you walk beyond the belfry and into what once was the main building of the church. Even the ruins are, as I said earlier, hauntingly beautiful, and I couldn’t stop myself from conjecturing as to just how magnificent the original structure would have been.

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A broken arch at St. Augustine
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More of the ruins
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An empty altar at St. Augustine
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I am guessing this would have been the church’s main altar once upon a time.

Bits and pieces of the original tile work in the church hangs on till date, offering one more glimpse of the magnificence of what once stood here.

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See those beautiful tiles?

I could only wander around the ruins, gawping at them, conjecturing, with a sense of melancholy filling me at the loss of what once must have been a meeting point, a place of worship, a place that provided solace to so many people.

Thankfully, efforts have been started being made recently to preserve what remains of this once-beautiful structure. I hope this bit of history goes on to be well-preserved and receives its just share of admiration.

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Want to read more about our experiences in Goa? Here are a few samples.

An experience worth savouring: Buying bread baked minutes ago in a wood-fired oven in Goa

Tinkering about in a Goan shipyard

For more, click on the ‘Goa’ tab on the blog.

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The First Flight

Bubboo went on her first aeroplane trip earlier this year, on a holiday to Goa, when she was all of seven months old.

‘She is very lucky. She is not even one, and she is flying in planes already,’ said my grandmother and Bubboo’s great-grandmother. ‘We never took a flight till we were married!,’ she added. Whether Bubboo is lucky or not to have travel-crazy parents remains under dispute in our family, but the fact is that she has already flown.

The day before the flight, we were beside ourselves with worry, wondering how exactly the baby would feel and behave during the commute, what to pack in her cabin baggage and what not. We needn’t have worried at all. It was a very short flight from Bangalore to Goa, and Bubboo behaved beautifully throughout. A little breastfeeding and a little talking to was all she needed. For the rest of the time, the in-flight magazine kept her thoroughly entertained.

Bubboo enchanted by the in-flight magazine
Bubboo enchanted by the in-flight magazine

She kept running her little fingers over the colourful magazine cover, stroking the figure of the lady on the cover over and over again.

She was such an exemplary little traveller that a co-passenger walked up to her, congratulated and thanked her for being so quiet and well-behaved throughout the flight. (For those of you who are feeling green with envy, wait till I tell you the story of Bubboo’s first train journey! I’m so sure you will not feel very envious of me then!)

I choose to take this as a sign that Madame is ready to embark on voyages, big and small, with her parents. 🙂

An Experience Worth Savouring: Buying Bread Baked Minutes Ago In A Wood-Fired Oven In Goa

Joseph stopped his car just a few minutes’ drive short of Calangute Beach, that famous tourist hub in Goa. I looked around, and saw a little village.

‘Get down, madam. Remember the traditional Goan bakery you wanted to see? It’s here,’ Joseph quipped.

Joseph was the cab driver we crossed paths with in Goa, one fine day. We was the person with whom we spent a day looking at sights around the place, on our recent visit there. He turned out to be a very interesting person, but more about that later. Today, I will tell you about my experience visiting a Goan bakery that had been around for hundreds of years. I had read about Goanese bread and traditional bakeries in a lot of travel blogs, and just casually happened to mention the same to Joseph. He offered to take me to one the very same day.

We stepped down from the car and looked around some more. There were narrow, crooked alleyways leading deep, deep inside the village, with colourful houses on both sides. I was confused. I had expected a shop, even if it were a tiny one, with big electric ovens and people queuing up to buy buns and breads that had just been baked. I couldn’t see any sign of that.

‘Just follow me. I will show you the bakery,’ said Joseph, highly mysteriously. We decided to trust our gut instinct, which was good (thankfully!), and decided to do as he said. We were richly rewarded, soon enough.

Joseph leading the way into the village
Joseph leading the way into the village

With Joseph leading the way, we walked a few metres and stopped outside a closed door with no signboard above it. By then, the aroma of freshly baked bread had begun to assail our nostrils.

‘Do you have a bag to carry the bread you buy back to your hotel?,’ Joseph asked. We said we didn’t, that we hadn’t known we’d be carrying back anything to the hotel. This puzzled us further. Wouldn’t the bakery give us packaged bread, we asked. ‘Oh, no, no, no! Just take a look,’ said Joseph, and went on to knock on the closed door.

The door opened, and we set foot into a tiny room full of heat and the overpowering smell of fresh bread. The room was dark except for a very dim light bulb just above the centre piece – a big oven. The oven was not an electric one, as I had expected, but one made of bricks. The man in charge of the bakery went on to tell us that the oven had been made by hand. Wood was burnt to power the oven, infusing its smell in the bread, making it very special and different from ordinary, store-bought bread, we were told. Splashes of cold water were used to cool down the oven when it became too hot, and the bread was brought out using huge, spade-like iron spatulas. Apparently, that morning’s bread had already been baked. Had we come in about five minutes earlier, we could have seen the entire process in person.

The hulk of a wood-fired oven!
The hulk of a wood-fired oven!

Apparently, when the Portuguese inhabited Goa, they missed eating bread which was so very common in their country, but very hard to come by in Goa. They tried making their own bread, but yeast was very difficult to find. So, they found an alternative – toddy. 🙂 It was at this time that Goan-made toddy began to be added to bread dough, which had the same impact as yeast. This practice has been stopped now, though. Did the bread we bought at this particular bakery contain toddy? Maybe yes, maybe not. We did not ask, because I learnt of this fact only after we returned to Bangalore and all the bread we had bought had been polished off long back. 😀

There are a variety of breads that these traditional bakeries make, all of which are popular in the surrounding villages. This bakery mainly made pao (the bread that we typically have with pao bhaji), konkon or bangle bread (which is typically dipped in milk and given to teething babies in Goa, to chew on), and poee (Goan-style bread resembling pita pockets).

Kankon (literally, bangles) bread fresh out of the oven
Kankon (literally, bangles) bread fresh out of the oven

We bought a few pieces of each type of bread to try out, all for a princely sum of Rs. 30! It did make me wonder at the amount of taxes and extras that we, city-dwellers, are forced to shell out while buying goods from stores.

Freshly baked pao in the bakery
Freshly baked pao in the bakery

Joseph and the baker told us how Goans (at least, the villagers!) prefer buying fresh bread made the very same morning they intend to consume it. They bring their own cloth bags for the purchase, apparently. 🙂

Poee, piping hot, out of the oven just a few minutes ago
Poee, piping hot, out of the oven just a few minutes ago

Every little bakery like this has a few delivery boys, locally called ‘poder’ or ‘bread boys’, who go around to the neighbouring villages to deliver fresh bread to households, on their bicycles. These bicycles have huge baskets attached to them, which are filled with hot bread and get empty within a couple of hours. When we visited the bakery, it was almost afternoon, and the bicycles were resting in the shade nearby.

The delivery bicycles, taking a rest
The delivery bicycles, taking a rest

We headed out of the bakery with our precious bag of still-warm bread hugged to my chest (Joseph had managed to find us a plastic bag, making me feel very, very guilty!). In a bit, we were dropped off at our hotel. Joseph was thanked profusely for the experience. The bread made their way home to Bangalore with us. What became of them? I will tell you later, in another post!

If you get a chance, do not miss visiting a charming little Goan bakery and buy fresh bread from them. It is definitely an experience worth savouring. If possible, do enquire about the timings when the bakery usually does its morning baking, so you can be there and witness the process first-hand.

I will leave you with these two beautiful posts on Goan breads and bakeries that I came across today:

Goan pao – a photo blog

The baker and our daily bread

Some Discoveries, Of The Sweet Type

Pinacolada in a pineapple, Estrela Do Mar Restaurant, Goa

I was thrilled to see pinacolada being served in the shell of a real pineapple at the Estrela Do Mar restaurant in Goa, on our recent trip. I HAD to order one for myself, even if just for the sake of the presentation!

I was not disappointed. Not at all. The drink tasted super-duper delicious!

Kalimark’s Bovonto and Panneer

I am no fan of packaged or aerated drinks. In fact, I don’t consume any in routine life. I do have temptations at times, though. The only things I make exceptions for in my ‘no packaged and aerated drinks’ rule is Kalimark’s Bovonto and Panneer, old-time favourites from Madras. We get these whenever we visit Madras or whenever someone visits us from Madras, but recently, I hear, they have started to appear in stores in Bangalore as well.

Strictly speaking, these are not things I have ‘discovered’ recently, but I think they make for a suitable entry in this post. These are beverages that I like, that do not have an artificial, choke-your-throat kind of taste, something that I would actually like to recommend you to taste. Bovonto is a grape-flavoured drink that reminds me of the huge quantities of grape juice that my maternal grandmother would make at home, in the summers, when we would visit her. Panneer is nothing but the PET Bottle version of that quintessential Madras drink, panneer soda, with a lovely, mild flavour. I think these are available in glass bottles too, that you are supposed to pop the cork open and drink out of, but I suspect they would have a slightly stronger taste than the same beverages available in PET Bottles. I would suggest you go for PET Bottles.

For those of you who want to read more about these beverages, here is an interesting article on how home-grown brands like this have survived the Cola wars.

Paan-flavoured candies from Green’s

Remember the classic Paan Pasand advertisement from the 80s? If you are an 1980s product, like me, I am sure you do! 🙂 Well, I was not a big fan of the taste of Paan Pasand then – they tasted too strong for me.

Recently, though, when I spotted a packet of paan-flavoured candies from Green’s in a little Bangalore grocery shop, I was tempted to pick it up. I am happy I did, for the candies taste lovely! They definitely taste of paan, but the flavour is controlled and not overpowering. I love popping a candy – or two – in my mouth almost every day after dinner. Takes me right back to the 80s!

Fruit Jackpot and Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House, Bangalore

Fruit Jackpot at Corner House
Fruit Jackpot at Corner House

Corner House’s Fruit Jackpot was a revelation for me. It was no ordinary dessert filled with tired, dry fruits that have no taste. Neither is it filled with inexpensive fruits that are in season at the time of the order. It is filled with a variety of fruits, fresh and tasty, some of them exotic too. From litchees and apples and bananas to cherries and ripe figs and mangoes, this dessert has undergone no scrimping on fruits. Must have for a fruit lover! The OH, being the lover of fruit that he is, adored it.

Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House
Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House

The Hot Chocolate Fudge from Corner House is another old-time favourite, recently revisited, and not exactly a new ‘foodie discovery’ as such. I think it deserves a mention here, though.

I love chocolates in most forms and, hence, this is the perfect dessert for me at Corner House. At least, of all the ones we have tried there so far. The extremely famous Corner House Death By Chocolate aka DBC is way too chocolate-ey for my palate. The Hot Chocolate Fudge, on the other hand, is just right. Cold, cold vanilla ice cream smothered in creamy, sinfully rich, hot chocolate, and topped with a lot of nuts – what is not to love? My, I am drooling even as I type this out!

Nolen Gur Ice Cream at Pabrais, Bangalore

I have been eyeing Pabrais ever since I noticed their outlet near Brigade Road, a couple of years ago. We never managed to visit, though, until last week! I discovered a whole new world of ice cream there!

For the uninitiated, the Calcutta-origin Pabrais is this store that sells all-natural ice cream. Their ice creams are made entirely with natural ingredients and, apparently, do not contain preservatives or artificial colours and flavour additives of any kind. They do sell a huge variety of flavours – hundreds, actually! – and most of them are very, very, very interesting. Bubblegum or South Indian Coffee or Lemongrass or Mascarpone Cheese ice cream, anyone? The staff at the parlour was very friendly, and handed us spoon after spoon of different flavours to try out, till we were in danger of having our stomachs filled and exiting without actually buying anything. We finally decided to go for a Nolen Gur and an Orange-Basil ice cream. Both of them were absolutely fresh, natural-tasting, and delicious.

The OH and I just loved the Nolen Gur ice cream, made with date palm jaggery from Bengal, topped with liquid jaggery. There are chewy bits of something like sandesh in the ice cream. All of it together made for a WOW! experience. I can’t wait to have the Nolen Gur again and, of course, try out more flavours that we missed out on the last time.

Most Pabrais ice creams are priced between Rs. 80-90. Slightly on the higher side for a small cup, but I think it is totally justified for the freshness of the ice cream, its natural feel and the exotic flavours.

A visit to Pabrais is highly recommended, if you haven’t been already!

Cadbury’s Coffee & Almond Limited Edition Dairy Milk

On the occasion of Friendship Day this year, Cadbury’s came up with two limited edition Dairy Milk chocolates – Black Forest and Coffee & Almond. These will, apparently, be available in shops till stocks last. I spotted them on a grocery-buying expedition recently, bought them, and polished them off – with the OH, of course! 🙂

The Black Forest is good, but tastes the same as Dairy Milk’s commonly available Fruit & Nut. Nothing new there! The Coffee & Almond was an entirely different story. Hints of coffee, crunchy roasted almonds, and the trademark Dairy Milk smooth chocolate – I had to love a combination like that!

If you haven’t tried this out yet, I would highly recommend that you do.

These chocolates are priced in the Rs. 40-50 range.

What have your foodie discoveries been, of late? Tell me! I am all ears!

In Pics: Tinkering About In A Goan Shipyard

I do not have the wherewithal for slow travel, where I can stay at a place for weeks or months on end, sample a variety of foods, visit spots beyond the usual tourist destinations, interact with the locals, and live like a local. Wherever I visit, I have to rush on to my home, my family, my work after a week, at the most. I envy those who have the luxury of travelling slowly, at their own pace, unencumbered by schedules and the like. I, on the other hand, slow down once I reach my destination and, instead of fast ticking off things from a touristy to-do list, try to get in as many local, unique experiences as I can. That is the best I can do, given the space I have.

This ensures that I always have something new to discover, every time I visit a place, however small it might be. Things and experiences that are new to me, I mean, not necessarily ‘new’ in the literal sense of the word. Goa has been no exception.

We have visited Goa a few times, but there is a lot there that we have not yet explored. On our recent trip, we did something new to us, something we had always wanted to do, but never actually did – visiting a shipyard. And what an experience it was! It was Samanth Subramanian who jolted me out of my reverie with his beautiful descriptions of shipyards in Gujarat, and inspired me to, finally, do this! 🙂

We were in quite a hurry and could make only a brief pit-stop at the shipyard at Vasco Da Gama. the few minutes we spent there were more than enough to fill us with awe, though.

We saw a number of huge vehicles at various stages in the process of being built, some being painted, some still being put together. A few of these ships looked old, worn out after several sea voyages, and were in the process of being repaired.

Workers, like busy bees, were milling around with their tools and equipments, getting the ships ready to embark on a journey far, far, far away on the sea.

My imagination began working overtime as soon as we entered the shipyard. Where would this ship travel to? Who would sail on that ship? Pirates, treasures, love affairs, virgin beaches, exotic clothes and spices, mermaids – I began building stories in my mind. Oh, all the stories that the sailors of these ships could tell me!What is to not love about these gorgeous ships? How could I not be mesmerized on seeing these giants being crafted from scratch, or having their dents ironed out?

Like an alarm clock rudely awakening one from a deep slumber on a chilly winter morning, our cab driver’s call came all too soon. We had to rush back. Well, the next time around, I do want to spend more time here, just taking in the sights and sounds and capturing them on camera to the best possible extent.

The Last Two Weeks…

… have been among the most eventful, and interesting ones, in our family. A lot happened in these two weeks, after over a year of inactivity.

Bubboo went on her first trip to Madras with her parents, where she saw the beach for the first time ever and bonded with her great-grandmother and Mama-Thatha. Some sightseeing and some shopping happened too, after what seems like ages. Yay!

Then, finally, Dabolima aka Bubboo met the Goan waters. 🙂 Her parents tagged along, of course! 😉 The trip to Goa also happened to be Bubboo’s first airplane journey.

We had some of the most delicious food at both these places, and met some really interesting, colourful people. And, we put on oodles of weight, but that is a small price to pay for all the fun we had.

We are back home now, exhausted, with a lot of chores piled up, but with a lot of great experiences and wonderful memories in our wallet. Detailed posts will, hopefully, be up on the blog soon! Wait for ’em!

Massage Love

Her Royal Highness Bubboo loves being massaged, especially her shoulders and legs.

She bursts out into huge smiles whenever I press her legs or give her a shoulder rub. I accidentally discovered this, a couple of months back. It has been the same ever since, any time of day, irrespective of her mood prior to it.

She goes all quiet when I pamper her this way, grinning immediately, stretching her body and giving me better access to her legs and shoulders. I love those precious smiles, and I love doing this little thing for her.

Goa effect? Or are all babies this way?

The Goa connection

We came to know that I was pregnant shortly after the OH and I returned from our holiday to Goa, earlier this year.

There is a strong possibility that Bubboo was conceived in Goa. Bubboo might as well have a Goanese connection. In fact, the OH often calls her ‘Dabolima’ fondly, after the Goa airport.

We keep talking about it all the time. We hope to take Bubboo to Goa as soon as we think she is fit and ready to travel. We want to see how she reacts to the place. Both the OH and I are keen on undertaking this particular trip.

Got to love a baby who comes with the promise of travel, right?

The church in Josh

 

If you are a Bollywood movie buff, you will recognise the church in the picture below immediately.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Panaji

It is the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Panaji, Goa, which has been depicted in the Shahrukh Khan-Aishwarya Rai starrer Josh, which released in the year 2000. Actually, a number of Hindi movies have been shot at this church, including Mujhse Shaadi Karogi and Aashiqui 2, as well as several South Indian films. That said, the church became quite famous after it appeared in Josh, and is popularly known as ‘the church in Josh‘.

I didn’t know all of this when we spotted the church on our drive around Panaji, but did find it quite pretty and quaint and decided to stop by. Sadly, the church was closed at the time, so we had to be content with admiring its exterior.

A close-up of the statue outside the church

The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception is a Catholic church that was constructed in the year 1541, and was rebuilt in 1619, after Panaji was declared the capital of Portuguese-ruled Goa. The church has been built in the Indo-Portuguese style.

Apparently, the bell that hangs outside the church is one of its major attractions. The bell was manufactured in Lisbon, Portugal, and weighs over 2,000 kg. It used to hang at St. Agostinho in Old Goa, the biggest church in the state after the Se Cathedral. It was shifted to Panjim and used in The Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the year 1841.

A close-up of the bell outside the church

The Feast of Immaculate Conception is held at the church every December, to which devotees throng.

We later heard that if you climb up to the top of the church, you get a beautiful view of Panaji. We missed that, but I will definitely ensure that we don’t on our next visit!

Have you been to this church in Goa?

Did you know….

… that you get a certain type of pretty, blue tile that is known as ‘Azulego’ in Goa? I did not, till I read up a little bit about Goa for our recent trip there. One of Goa’s lesser known aspects, for sure. Unfortunately, as it turned out later, my research proved to be inadequate.

Azulegos used in a name plate on a home in Panjim

The word ‘azulego’ has been derived from the Arabic word ‘zellige’, which means ‘polished stone’. The Moors – Muslim inhabitants of Morocco, Sicily, Malta, Western Sahara and Western Algeria – began the art of hand-painting polished tiles. This art form spread to places like Spain, Portugal, Germany and Holland in the 16th century. The Portuguese improvised the technique of making these tiles, and began predominantly using the colour blue in them. When this art form became popular in Portugal, these tiles began to be used everywhere – on the walls of houses, on the floors, in churches, in restaurants and trains, as well as in other public places. Major historic events began to be depicted on these tiles, too. The tiles not only provided ornamental value, but also helped keep the temperature under control. These blue tiles are still widely used in Portugal, apparently, albeit in contemporary forms.

An art gallery in Panjim that sells the blue hand-painted tiles
An art gallery in Panjim that sells the blue hand-painted tiles
A close-up of the pretty tile name plate outside the gallery

When the Portuguese came to Goa, in the 1500s, they brought with them this form of making tiles as well. Today, in Goa, these tiles are mostly used to add an element of style, in a nameplate for a home or the frame for a mirror, or are sold as souvenirs. There are several contemporary art galleries in Goa, particularly in Panjim, which sell these tiles. We saw these tiles used at several places in Goa, in the homes of people, outside churches, on roadside altars and in restaurants, and they look absolutely gorgeous.

The blue tiles used on a roadside altar in Panjim
The blue tiles used on a roadside altar in Panjim
The hand-painted tiles used on the facade of Panjim Inn
The hand-painted tiles used on the facade of Panjim Inn

We got so tired and hungry just driving around Panjim and photographing the beautiful old buildings there that, sadly, we didn’t get a chance to stop by a gallery and buy some of these tiles as souvenirs. It took us close to 3 hours to find Fontainhas, which is supposed to be the manufacturing hub of these beautiful tiles. No one we asked could guide us correctly. When we finally reached Fontainhas, all we found were shops and art galleries and narrow, narrow, narrow lanes. We wanted to buy the tiles directly from a potter’s place, but we didn’t find any such.  All the galleries we came across looked very elegant-looking and seemed to be expensive places to shop.

Next time, I’m going to buy some for sure. I have heard a lot of awesome things about Fontainhas, and want to explore it in a much better way the next time around. And, next time, I’m going to go to Goa better informed.

Any suggestions on where to buy some azulegos in Goa are most welcome!